Monday, August 13, 2007

SUSTER NGESOT: Indon take on 'Ringu'

SUSTER NGESOT (Indonesian horror thriller)
Cast: Nia Ramadhani, Mike Lewis, Donita and Lia Waode
Director: Viva Westi
Time: 87 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)
Nia Ramadhani and Donita
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? ‘Suster’ is an Indonesian slang for ‘nurse’ (from the English equivalent of ‘sister’) and "Suster Ngesot The Movie" is based on an Indon legend about a crippled ghost that crawls about to catch on to someone's feet. Now that we have got the ‘daffy-nition’ out of the way, you may just consider this effort as Jakarta’s version of Japanese horror series, "Ringu" and "Death Note", combined.
Yes, you get jolted by familiar visions of the ghastly long-haired kid in white – plus a bald one thrown in for good measure. These are accompanied by loud searing noises that are more irritating than scary. In fact director Viva Westi repeats the jolts so often in both the narrative and flashbacks that it gets tedious and loses its effect after a while. Instead of quivering in fright, you go ‘Oh no, not again’.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie deals with two pretty nursing trainees, Vira (Nia Ramadhani) and Silla (Donita) who have come from Bandung to Jakarta to work at a hospital. The girls are picked up at the railway station by the dashing Mike (Mike Lewis), a university student from Australia, who is the boyfriend of Vira. However, the moment they check into the decrepit building that serves as their hostel, you know that something is going to go terribly wrong. For one, the room allocated to them had not been opened since 20 years ago, and for another, it is so full of rats and roaches that even a pest exterminator would have trouble settling into it.
As soon as she starts work, Vira finds a strange diary that can predict the death of her friends. She also runs into Mak Saroh, an old woman who tells her that her room is haunted by a nurse named Lastri (Lia Waode) who was believed to have been murdered by her fiance who had been having an affair with her best friend. Meanwhile, Silla is going out on the sly with Mike, and the two seem to be getting closer and closer. Will the tragedy of 20 years ago repeat itself?

HIGHS & LOWS: In terms of plot-execution, Westi seems to be going by the Book of Asian Horror – with its tried and tired devices like creaking doors, cheap loud jolts and sudden appearances of characters. These might have worked if there was a proper build-up or even an attempt at story development.
To be fair, "Suster Ngesot" has an unpretentious feel about it and it even has a nice twist in the plot. The problem is that the film-makers do not know how to capitalise on it and resort to conventional devices which are repeated throughout the movie. There is even the ‘resident clown’ in the form or a weird caretaker who peeks into the ladies’ shower – a’ la "Psycho".
Also, it would have helped a great deal if the lead stars were properly directed to play their respective roles. As it is, Nia and Donita look awkward and lost as ‘hot chicks’ implausibly trapped in a dump of a hostel. Their facial expressions are limited to grimacing and screaming in fright. Mark Lewis is terribly miscast and has no chemistry with his co-stars. The one thing they have going for them is their earnestness in trying to act.

THE LOWDOWN: With its slant on young love and betrayal, "Suster Ngesot" should work better as a date movie than a horror thriller. It is not creepy enough to make your skin crawl…


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